SexEd: Dear Freshmen, Please Listen

Dear Freshmen,

I’m going to tell you some things. And maybe you’ll listen, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll consider it or ignore this stuff all together. But I hope you at least read what I have to say as someone who has stood where you’ve stood.

First I should tell you that I don’t want to be writing this. Things like this shouldn’t have to be written. This isn’t another random open letter of angst or unrequited feelings. This is cold hard honest advice.

As a feminist telling people, specifically women, how to not get assaulted is the antithesis of what I stand for. It is against much of what I believe in, yet we still live in a world where people like you and I have to prepare ourselves against the elements of our culture. This is especially true for racial minorities, members of the LGBTQ community and women in general.

This isn’t just the advice our parents and big brothers give us about ‘never take a drink you don’t see opened’ or ‘travel with a friend’. This is an awakening to the culture we live in. A culture that is still letting sexual assault slide past the eyes of authority, where people still think dress or physical attributes mean another person is downright “asking for it”.  

So what is my advice? Listen to what your elders tell you because odds are they’ve been there and learned from that experience. But don’t let the lesson end there. Understand the full meaning of consent and that it is a basic human right for every level of physical contact. Unfortunately we live in a world where that isn’t common knowledge. So it is time for you, yes you the first years, to help make sure it does become common knowledge.

Consent is not just no means no. Consent is not silence. Consent is not lack of an answer. It is an understood conscious agreement of all parties involved that what’s going on physically, mentally and emotionally is okay.

This isn’t a common lesson in health class. In middle school and high school sex education is all “don’t get an STI”, “wrap it before you tap it” and “here’s how babies are made”. The whole all people agreeing thing is overlooked. So it’s time to take control and make up for the lessons lost.

Some of you will get through the next four years unscathed by everything except the stories of others surviving. Some of you won’t because the reality is that statistics aren’t numbers. They are people like you and me. Like your friends and your peers and your colleagues and bosses, all the way to the barista that makes your coffee just right or the kid bagging your groceries.

This is not meant to scare you. Take this knowledge and do some research. Learn how to make consent go beyond common knowledge to common understanding and common action.  If not for you, then for the person you love whom you may not know has already survived their battle with assault.

Statistics are not numbers. Statistics are people.

Speak up. Speak out. Speak now.